01 November, 2017

Two Birds, One Stone - 200 word Micro Fiction

(Image : wattpad.com via Google)

“No !” rang the journalist’s voice, laced with desperation, dripping with anguish. “I did not kill her. His lawyer looked at him and smiled - a confident smile that said “Don't worry - we'll win”

She’d been a very famous model.  They’d been seeing each other regularly. Two months back, she had been found dead in her apartment.  His fingerprints were all over and he was charged with her murder. 

The murderer had been visiting the courtroom regularly.  He had been smitten by her and had courted her.  Things had started warming between them and suddenly, out of the blue, came this journalist.  What started off as a professional interview turned personal. He discovered that they were having an affair

“In the light of the evidence presented, I request that my client be acquitted” boomed the defense counsel’s voice. 

“After taking into consideration all the evidence presented before the court, this court finds the defendant guilty of murder” intoned the judge.

“She spurned me and got what she deserved.  He stole her from me and got what he deserved.  Two birds with one stone” thought the murderer, as he gathered his black robes around him and rose from the judge’s chair.

12 July, 2017

Helicopter Parenting - Shielding kids from disappointment

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The IB results were declared last week.  The Secondary School places allotments came through yesterday.  The HKDSE results are expected today.  Results always bring to the fore the ever-present fascination with numbers – the attribution of a number that classifies an individual as a success or a failure. 

Do these numbers serve a purpose other than to make kids more conscious of setting a certain bar for themselves, if they fall below which, they deem themselves to be failures ?  Why ? 

As parents, giving credence to numbers and achievements can be attributed to the fact that these are undeniably associated with their futures and careers.  But, the current education systems in most parts of the world have made parents re-align their attitudes towards priorities in raising kids.  Elements like self-identities and self-worth are increasingly being determined based on achievements and external recognition. 

Somewhere along the way, helicopter parenting has become a common thing where everything is timetabled, set by parents who also consider it necessary to shield kids from disappointment and pain of failure.

The Secondary School place allotments were declared yesterday.  One could see parents running helter-skelter, in sheer desperation, to other schools, if their child had not managed to get into a school of choice while the students in question themselves, meandered rather aimlessly, looking lost and doomed.  This brings me to my next point.

What kind of future generation are we raising ? 

It is only too frightfully common to see parents intervening in situations to the extent that the youth of today doesn’t have to, doesn’t know how to face problems head on and try solving them themselves.  If homework is forgotten, one of the parents or the help at home rushes to school with the said book.  On one of the forums that Macadamia uses, for researching on universities, she found quite a number of parents posing questions on behalf of their 18 year-old children, claiming that their children are not old enough / mature enough to pose questions by themselves.  Are we not setting the youth up for failure by over extending support to this extent ?  Are we not erasing those lines of accountability that are associated with / drawn by a youngster’s own actions, thus teaching them a life lesson in responsibility ? 

Parents nowadays don’t want their kids to come face to face with failure of any kind.  The other day, during the Parent Teacher meeting, I came across a few parents who did not want their kids to know how they had done at school because the kids would be disappointed.  While part of me understood the kids being disappointed, part of me was quite bewildered at this parental logic.  It left me wondering if it is that bad a thing for kids to experience disappointment.  Is it ? 

Pecan has experienced not being able to attain what he set out to achieve, on more than one occasion.  Last year, he was pipped to the post in the finals of a competition, giving the phrase ‘so near yet so far’ a new meaning.  Recently, he narrowly lost out on being the Head Prefect at school. 

Macadamia was stonewalled and lost out on an UK university because of being underage.  Now, despite the gruelling hours she put in, she is in a situation where her first choice of university hangs in balance because she fell short by 1 point in her IB results.  She does have her backup plan but is still having to battle it out for her first choice.

Disappointments, letdowns, discouragements – all these are part of life.  I personally think it is very important for children to learn that disappointment is an emotion that is normal, is experienced, and what is most important is not to dwell on it, but to learn from it and move on.  Kids need to learn that falling is a normal part of the life process but the more important thing is being able to get up, dust themselves off, and face the future, head on, again. 

Kids can and should be protected only so much, for, there will come a day when each one of them will have to meet the future head on.  After having protected them from failures all along, after having shielded them from hurt and disappointment all along, what will it be like for them, if they are suddenly expected to learn about facing disappointments after they are 18 ?

As parents, I think we would stand our kids in good stead if we focus on cultivating in them, qualities of hard work, perseverance, resilience, endurance, flexibility, toughness, strength, empathy, adaptability, responsiveness, and being responsible global citizens of tomorrow.  Society needs to start focusing on character and as parents, it is time we started teaching the next generation the true meaning of responsibility and accountability, respecting their interests and leanings, rather than use kids as mouthpieces or receptacles for our own unfulfilled dreams and ambitions.  

While we are at it, we need to let them experience the falls that are a natural process of growing up, for to learn to get up, dust themselves and get ready to face the future is way more important a life lesson than conveniently handing it to them on a platter.

30 June, 2017

Not in my name !

(Image courtesy : scroll.in via Google)

My heart bleeds for the state our country is in now, my heart bleeds !
A strong, sensible voice of reason is what it desperately needs
Minorities are being targeted, lynched with impunity
While, either in complicity or in fear, silently watches the majority communitiy.

Tagore once said ‘ Where the head is held high and the mind is without fear’
That was our country erstwhile, tolerant, inclusive and austere.
Where we hinged on beliefs like ahimsa and non-violence
Now one sees radicalism and bloodshed, sanctioned by religious vehemence.

This was a country where souls like Mahatma Gandhi preached
Now look to what depths it has sunk, the new lows that people have reached
Non-violence, ahimsa, tolerance, truth reigned, people fought for independence as one
Now the same country lies in tatters, of the above good qualities, in people who govern, there seemingly is none.

Corrupt, fanatic politicians now rule the roost
Sanctioning violence based on religion, giving facism a boost
Where, in celebrating festivals, people used to come together and rejoice
People of all castes and creed, hand in hand, gave joy and celebration a voice
What has gone wrong with the country that, to unity in diversity, showed the path
Now, in the name of religion, we see minority festivals turn into a bloodbath.

People are scared to talk, to air their views
From the fascist fanatics in power, most take their cues
For those political leaders who thump their broad chests and claim in vain
Think carefully before you claim ‘on my government, there are no stains’.

Organised religion has turned into a favourite tool
Steeping minds and hearts with hatred, forming vile cesspools
There is so much bloodshed in the name of religion and God
In the name of one who is said to protect and nurture, is that not odd ?

Caste and religion are such fertile breeding grounds today
With politicians whipping up a frenzy, ever ready to lead people astray
The heart aches and the eyes sting with tears
As to false promises, people are radicalized, the minorities live in abject fear

Women now have no place to voice themselves now
What has more protection and respect in the country, is a cow !
Women are still treated as objects to claim and plunder
But mobs lynching people in the name of cows, is this not insanity, I wonder !

Why are politicians sanctioning, spreading such hatred and loathing ?
In doing so, what future course are they charting ?
Lynching, mob killing in the name of personal conviction
Oh brethren !  Human attitudes are so brazen !

People in the country are fast being dragged into a mire
Radicalised fanatics killing people, setting their worlds afire
Humanity is being steadily imprisoned in cages of bigotry
To unjustified violence, killing, lynching, there now seems no boundary.

Protests abound, as people gather and voice their dissent, they care
Placards everywhere,  saying ‘not in my name’, their hearts in despair
Like them, I bear allegiance to the Constitution of my country
One that calls for harmony and secularism, not radicalised pomp and pageantry

My heart bleeds for the state our country is in now, my heart bleeds
A strong, sensible voice of reason is what it desperately needs.

27 June, 2017

The TamBrahm Series (Part 13) - Chorunnu / Annaprashnam

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We left this series hanging at the naming ceremony (the Namakaranam) of the baby.  There are little ceremonies that are conducted at the drop of a hat in TamBrahm households but in trying to highlight the major ones (meaning functions where half the city is invited to attend), the next one has to be the Annaprashanam. 

The little people, aka babies do lead a rather boring life in terms of food, during the first few months of their lives.  No wonder then, that they cry or make their displeasure known, quite often.  We adults, however, take those tears and howls as a sign of hunger and feed them some more tasteless liquids or better still, tasteless mush.  

Now these babies are very smart little people.  Ever seen how fascinated babies are when they watch people eat ?  Well, we don’t stop to think of what’s going on inside their little heads, do we ?  Plenty, is what I’d think.  When it’s their turn, it’s back to eating mush without much taste to it and we adults are indeed pushing our luck in expecting them to adore the stuff they’re fed during their first few months of life.

Trust me babies, you have no idea what you’ve missed out on !!!

There comes a point when babies start turning their heads away, pursing their lips tightly closed at the sight of that infamous “lunch or dinner” or better still, lull their caregivers into a sense of complacency by taking in a whole spoonful of the mush and seconds later, spitting it all out with the force of a stone leaving a catapult.   That’s when the penny drops in the human head – ah ha !  The baby wants solid food. 

The baby is tired of eating (well, if you can call rolling the mush around inside the mouth and swallowing the goop that) mush !!  Bunch of Einsteins, I tell ya !

The necessary calls to the priest are made.  Why priest aaaa ?  If you haven’t figured that one out by now, I’d probably categorize you in the ‘beyond hope’ box.  See, no TamBrahm function ever happens without an officiating priest.  Yeah … they are considered THAT important.

The ‘event’ quite a bit of planning – duh !  Which TamBrahm function doesn’t require planning huh ?!  It needs some core people to be present – the most important being the baby, of course.  What did you think I was going to say ?  The priest ??  Nah !!  The baby beats them to it here.

A feast is in the offing but the star of the day is not offered all the items on the feast spread.  Their tummies haven’t as yet turned into the foodie tummies that TamBrahms are blessed with.  This is just the start towards turning that little individual into a gourmand gastronome (really don’t know why some people think that glutton is a synonym for every TamBrahm out there. I really don’t.)

The usual pomp and pageantry is on display by the family priest and his horde of assistants – who would be busy setting things up, spilling things, smearing things on the floor, wiping stuff on their veshtis (dhotis) so much so that the so called white veshti would soon be looking like a multi coloured mural of modern art.  They will, of course, be asking for things that were not on the original list and generally making sure that a whole plethora of chaos ensues in the said household.  That’s what they are paid for, truth be told and this is something I’ve always believed.

Once the food items are set out on a plate or a banana leaf (for TamBrahms it is usually a banana leaf – what I mean is the food items are served on a banana leaf – just in case some of you are under the impression that we TamBrahms make our babies eat a banana leaf.)  The father would be dutifully sitting with baby on his lap while the mother would be standing a couple of steps behind the father (the TamBrahm community is pretty steeped in patriarchy, so…).  Baby, in the meanwhile, would be at a stage where anything and everything gets eaten – except, yep – you guessed that right - food. 

The father is then asked to feed the baby a little something from the banana leaf.  At this point in time, past experience has taught me that it is better to be specific and tell the father to start by feeding the baby something taste specific like sweet or sour or salty – you get the picture, right ? .  Else, baby could possibly end up tasting a mix of sambar, rasam, yoghurt,pickle , payasam, banana – well just about everything on the banana leaf – all at one go.  I kid you not – that’s how some people eat.  Baby could end up with a very confused palate, methinks.  But then again, it would convince the little people that this confusion in the palate is why most adults wear a perpetually confused look and talk gibberish when talking to these little humans !! 

There will be times when one would come across babies that don’t really like sweet stuff.  But nah !  We TamBrahms are made of sterner stuff.  The baby gets fed, baby spits, baby gets fed the same thing again, baby spits again, baby gets fed a bigger spoonful by some Einstein who, by this time, strongly believes that baby is spitting out stuff because there wasn’t enough on the spoon !

Ahem …. Ever considered the remote possibility that your baby doesn’t like sweets ??!!  Feed the baby Doritos or Lays or some such thing for a change and you’ll know for sure.  But then again, some things just don’t happen, do they ?  This whole feeding / spitting out process continues till the new parents are convinced (by now) that their baby, for some weird reason, hates solid food and the baby in question has pretty much begun to think that the whole thing is one big game. Big people feed, I spit – that’s the name of the game.  What fun, I say !

Baby might pick up an ant scurrying about nearby and pop it into its mouth and relish it like a tasty snack but those few first mouthfuls of ghee and rice would invariably be used as confetti to pepper baby’s own face or if baby is industrious enough, to find its mark on the faces of people around the baby.  Either way, for the spectators, it is time to grab that bag of popcorn.  Highly possible things could get funny.

You see, toddlers have a very simple rule.  Food, no matter what the cuisine, always tastes better when picked off the floor and eaten.  Did you just say ‘eeewww’ ?  Where else the hell do you think they get their immunity from ?  Ten years down the line, when you’re enjoying that lip smacking bhel at a roadside joint, do remember to say thanks to Mother Nature for making it a part and parcel of every single toddler, to pick stuff off the floor and send it on its way into their tummies !

Also, it’s so not fair to deprive the little ones of interesting things like say a pizza or some crisps and what have you.  After all, the purpose of this ceremony is to let them know that there’s a whole nice world of food waiting for them beyond the mush they have been fed until now.  How can parents keep all the good things away from them ?  Wish this had struck us before our kids’ annaprashnam.  Ahem …. Things would have been slightly different then.

For the TamBrahms, everything starts with food and ends with food.  So does the Chorunnu.  There’s nothing more to it, really.  The baby is just given a glimpse of what he/she is missing on a day to day basis (in terms of lip smacking food, as they down their mush) and off goes baby, into the arms of the doting grandparents or aunts or uncles or neighbours or whatever.  As always, the real feast is enjoyed by the adults and of course, the vadhyars.

In some other states in India, this Annaprashnam ceremony is usually followed by laying multiple items in front of baby.  A book symbolising learning, Jewellery symbolising wealth, A pen symbolising wisdom, some clay symbolising property (I believe).    Whoever thought of that last bit, of putting a lump of clay in front of a toddler (and expecting them not to eat it) has to be an absolute genius.  Without question, that one !

The baby is then allowed to crawl over and choose one of the items as the adults around him/her wait with bated breath to see which one the baby picks.  I’d personally say it depends on what’s going through the little genius’s mind right then.  Baby logic would ideally dictate – I’m going to pick up whatever can fit in my nostrils or my ears or, of course, what can be chewed on !  I really don’t think babies know it in their heads that he/she is ordained to be a civil engineer or a writer or whatever.  But then, customs and traditions still triumph and yes, please don’t ask why !  No one knows !! 

I’ve always wondered what people steeped in tradition would make of a baby that picks up a book and starts to chew on it !!  Go figure !!  They are curious little humans.
Fortunately, us TamBrahms do not offer our babies such mouth watering choices else Macadamia would have eaten them all up, for sure.  That kid used to eat everything else, except vegetables and fruit and other foods that are considered fit for human consumption.  During her first birthday, she literally chewed through one of her dad’s watches !!  Imagine letting her loose with a lump of clay and a pen and what have you.  For Macadamia, it would have been a feast beyond description !!

Let’s not even start with Pecan.  That kid was an insanely curious bee who used to stuff crayons in his ears and pick ants off the floor and pop them into his mouth.  I’m pretty sure he still has a couple of small thermocol bits somewhere in his nasal passage or maybe those bits have travelled half the world into the sinus cavities or some such. 
If a whole plethora of things had been laid out at his Annaprashnam, the pen would promptly have been stuck into a nostril (not necessarily his own), the book would have been chewed on or turned into a hat (thank your stars that he doesn't particularly like origami) and he would probably have dunked the food on his own head – logic being – if food is dunked on the head, it slides down due to gravity and then you eat it.  See, you don’t need to use your hands.  Now are you beginning to get a fair idea of the kind of kid he was ? 

Well, so now that little Iyer baby has been introduced to solid food, the chorunnu ceremony is deemed wover.  The baby goes back to eating mush (ever seen that look of shock on baby’s face as he/she gets fed mush again after the chorunnu).  That must be one confused little human being. 

We’ll take leave for now, mush and all and meet up soon, over the baby’s first birthday, I guess.

Poittu varen na !  Pinney paarkalam !  See you all soon !  Stay tuned for the next post as paapa (baby in TamBrahm lexis) turns a year old !!

01 June, 2017

Letting Go

(Image via Google)

Motherhood starts off as a daze
The first few years pass in a haze
The endless feeds, the sleepless nights
A few hours of sleep at a stretch, turns into a highlight.

Then they grow and learn to walk
They explore the space around them and learn to talk
Through each and every single milestone – oh boy !
You feel pride, you feel pain and incomparable joy !

Every time they totter when they walk, they flail
Your hand they seek, as an anchor that never fails
Every time in their sleep, as they battle imaginary dragons
They look at you as their protector, as someone who has no paragons.

Their eyes light up, every time they smile at you, or belly laugh with mirth
That smile – toothless or a few, it fills you with such joy that it hurts
Then comes the day they step out into the world
To head to playschool or kindergarten, their fingers around yours, still curled

When you drop them off at kindergarten, they cry, for a few days
You probably cry longer, in more ways
They discover a little world of their own, they play, they fall, get hurt, with independence they flirt
You agonize more over each little cut, bump, or when their little minds, the bullies around hurt.

You teach them the alphabet, the numbers and read them books
One day, they begin to read on their own, as the books, into them, sink their hooks
You watch with a mixture of wonder, pride and awe, and realize that they’ve grown
As books take them on wonderful journeys imagined, to worlds of their own

Time flies, their world expands, school steps in and a myriad of friends
They find books, toys, pals, teachers – as life takes them through the bends
You are still there – a part of their lives – but not needed physically as much
Therein begins the process of ‘letting go’ – life is a good teacher, as such

You watch them grow
As, vestiges of childhood, away they throw
Part of you bursts with joy, your heart fills with pride, yet, in its own way, it hurts
As they step into a world of their own, paralleled by their growth spurts

Signs of rebellion soon sometimes follow
Making everything you say or do, sound hollow
The process of adjusting wavelengths never stops
For, communication is of utmost importance, much better than teardrops

Somewhere along the way, you find each other again
Mother and child, each other they sustain
They grow, they flourish.
You learn, them, you nourish.

Through it all, you get comfortable with each other
Through it all, you turn into friends with one another
There are still times when they fall asleep, head on your lap
As you take a blanket and against the cold, them, you tenderly wrap

Their eyes light up when you cook something they love
They giggle, their eyes light up, as their spoons they dip into the pot on the stove
You are the very best, they say and laugh, and wrap you in a hug
Your eyes fill up with tears, tears that hide quickly, as, at your heartstrings they once again tug

As they grow, so do you, as you go with the flow
For, a part of you knows, that one day, you have to let go
As time goes by, those strings you let slip through your fingers a bit more
For, they have to get independent and you know that, at your very core

Part of you accepts, part of you still denies and you moan
That one day they will leave home, and start a life of their own
When that day does finally arrive
You hope that you will be ready to let go, let them, on their own thrive

You hope that they will still be your best friends
As you let go, tears down your face may stream
But you will hold on to the hope that with you, they’ll still share, through life’s trends
Their craziest thoughts, their deepest fears and their wildest dreams.

That’s when realization hits like a ten ton truck
And leaves you rather dumbstruck
That letting go is nothing but forging an unbreakable bond of love and friendship, it just ascends
That this is love, in its purest form - it has no expectations, no boundaries and no end.

09 November, 2016

Hate thrives - Shocked and Saddened !

(Pic courtesy : thewrap.com via Google)

Today’s US elections have saddened me beyond belief.  I didn’t know nor did I realize that an election process in a part of the world that is so far away from the one I was born in, so far away from the one I now live in, would impact me to such an extent.

Truth be said, it has.

I’ve considered myself an optimist, I’ve always banked on the notion of hope,  have always invested in a belief that was born out of the confidence that the world is slowly gaining momentum towards becoming a more equitable society.  I let myself believe that feminism is a concept that is gaining ground, albeit slowly, in developing nations of the world and at a much faster pace in the so called developed nations of the world.

Equity, equality, feminism - were all concepts that had, of late, become so believable. With mobility on the rise, human beings were beginning to scale borders and settle in different parts of the world and I well and truly let myself believe that things were getting more secular.

Well !!  The country that prided itself on being the birthplace of democracy has spoken and how !  What I feel right now is a mixture of disappointment and fear.  Disappointment at people in the largest democracy in the world having succumbed to a misogynist who has furthered his agenda on the basis of fear mongering, divisiveness, racial hatred, intolerance, bigotry, arrogance and open condescension towards anyone not willing to tow his line. 

This is not just about a man winning the elections against a female rival.  He embodies everything that is going wrong with the world, stands for everything that needs to be done away with because what the world of today needs is unity while he stands for divisiveness.  What the world of today needs is equality, fairness, tolerance and Trump has proven himself to exemplify, personify, symbolize and represent exactly the opposite attributes.  It is disturbing that these emotions were what he built his campaign on but what is inherently more alarming and disconcerting is the fact that a majority of the American population believed in the same rhetoric and saw him through.

If I happen to catch Trump’s acceptance speech (I doubt I will, though), there are going to be a large number of women cheering him on, applauding the fact that he’s won the election and it is going to make me wonder why and how.  How can women support a man who’s made no efforts to correct his misogynistic attitude, one that actually flaunts his chauvinism, shames women, calls them names, thumps his chest and says he groped women and got away with it, crows to a crowd that a woman who stood up to him would not have been his first choice for 'groping' and the like.  The best bit is that he gets away with it all.

Every single vote for Trump was a vote for passive acceptance of chauvinists not being accountable for what they say or do, of male entitlement, just on the basis of gender. It was a vote for arrogance and the concept of undeserved privilege and dispensation, it was a vote for the continuance of biases that beset women just on the basis of gender.

As things stood in society of late, what we see is probably not the institutionalized sexism that one used to witness a few decades back.  There are no professions from which women are barred or not allowed to practice.  What we see in today’s world is sexism in a more subtle form.  Having someone like Trump as the President of the world’s largest democracy (it sounds like a cheap joke, truth be told) has thrown those right out of the window.  Subtleness be damned, it’s out in the open and people have embraced it with open arms.

Sexist attitudes are long gone, is what some people say.  It is something that used to belong in the previous century, said someone, the other day.  I’d just say it is going to be tough reminding oneself of that statement every single time the newly minted megalomaniac, misogynistic President of the USA walks out and the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’.

What he has proven beyond doubt, sadly enough, is that hate and divisiveness sell.  It is a winning formula.  The American people have bought it hook, line and sinker.  I just hope the rest of the world does not have to pay for their folly.

09 June, 2016

Be a lighthouse - Stop rape culture !!

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There is outrage again – and rightly so.  With the Stanford Rape Case out in the open, the focus, the spotlight has once again landed on the problem that is endemic, worldwide, one which is undoubtedly rampant.   Misogyny reigned supreme yet again as Brock Turner (charged with rape and sexual assault) was let off with a minor sentence. 

There are protests, there are petitions on for removing Aaron Persky from the bench.  I signed a petition myself because I do personally believe that misogynistic people like Persky have no place in the legal framework, let alone on the bench.  How can women even hope for justice to prevail with such people around ?  He was in an official position to make a statement by endorsing accountability and doing his part in stubbing misogyny.  He did exactly the opposite.

I read a letter by the rape survivor – one she read out in court.  It was horrifying, it made me sick to the stomach and mad as hell.  Yet, despite all the lady in question went through, it was she that was being questioned, it was her life that was being dissected at will by Turner’s legal representatives, it was her word that was being questioned – all the while with the perpetrator in plain view in the courtroom. 

In fact, Turner’s father is said to have gone way ahead of himself and described the rape as his son’s ’20 minutes of action’.  With that kind of attitude in his head, it is small wonder that his son thinks raping women is a done thing, is perfectly ok and that it is his god given birthright (perhaps).  These people belong to a band that considers themselves unaccountable for anything and everything they do. These people belong to a band of people that consider it their birthright to get what they want, when they want – a shameful faction of the human populace who believe they are unaccountable for their actions, who bring up their children with the idea that they too are totally unaccountable for their actions and then there are friends and neighbours who contribute to such rotten standards.  Then you have judges like Persky who let these criminals off lightly, thus granting their own passive approval to the crime committed.   I’ve often heard people say that it takes a village to raise a child.  In this case, Brock Allen Turner is a rotten apple in the basket which has been tended to, catered to, raised and now supported by a whole village that has putrid standards.
Just because he is a swimming star at Stanford does not give him the right to rape, it does not give the judge or people to justify what he did.  What  he did was wrong.  Period.  He should pay with his freedom, commensurate to what he did.  Period.

I go back to what I’d said quite some time back.  If parents don’t fulfil their responsibilities and duties in educating their children, what hope do we have for the future ? 

The one undisputable fact parents all over the world need to attempt to bear in mind is the fact that children are the future.  So, if there is no endeavor on the part of parents, to educate the future generations about issues like sexual abuse, rape, being sensitive towards the needs and feelings of others, understanding that a NO means a NO and that a NO does not mean a MAYBE or a YES, what foundations do we hope to build ?  If this does not start at the family level, how can we even begin to hope for a safer, more secure world for the future generations to grow up in ?

Whether we like it or not, we live in a society that is evolving by the minute.  The pace of change affects children even more so because they, at this age, have minds that are more gullible than ours.  We are bringing up our kids in a society in which peer pressure has more of a push now than it did when we were children.  What peers say, matters.  What peers think about them, matters to them a great deal.  We are bringing up our kids in times when information is there for the taking.  Newspapers, the internet, magazines or social media websites – are all open fields, waiting for information to be sought and gleaned.

Take movies or TV serials, for instance.   There is no denying the fact that as things stand now, girls and women are still viewed as a conquest of sorts in many movies or serials.  Falling in love or being sexually active are viewed more as a victory or a triumph, a conquest, if you may, rather than something that is born out of consent, mutual affection and desire.  There are books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” where the main protagonist in the book “agrees to take” the female protagonist’s virginity without the two of them “signing an agreement”.   Makes it sound like a favor that the male protagonist is bestowing on the female.  There are scores of youngsters who have ready access to books like these or many of the movies, where male superiority and dominance over females is clearly the underlying theme.

Every single time a child picks up a newspaper or a magazine that asks “what was the women doing out so late at night ?” “Was she drunk ?” “Was she improperly clothed ?” “Did she have a lot of boyfriends ?”  “Was she already sexually active ?” – thought processes are unconsciously being implanted in those susceptible minds.  Their minds are automatically being driven towards associating these notions with the idea that if these conditions were present then it was the woman that was asking for it, that it was the woman that was to blame.  We, as adults, are comprehensive enough to realize that no woman ever asks to be sexually assaulted or raped.  No woman ever asks to be violated.  How about the younger generation ?  Who’s going to teach them to read between the lines here and get the point across that if it has happened, it is not the woman who is the instigator, as the media and people rather conveniently seem to deem and assume.

Society gives boys a lot many more concessions than it does the girls.  Things like sensitivity and empathy are not a “requirement” in a boy’s psyche, simply because they are males.  Boys need to be educated, they have to be taught about consent, they have to be taught about respecting others’ feelings and sentiments, they have to be educated about the evils of peer pressure.  They have to be taught that there are lines which are not meant to be crossed.  I do know, as my own son grows up, that this is easier said than done.  When those teen hormones are raging through them, it takes very little to drown out the parents’ voices and replace them with those of other teens who are equally testosterone driven.  But that is no excuse for not trying to educate them in the first place. 

It is a parental responsibility and one that needs to be taken just as seriously as we take their education and the many other aspects of their lives that we deem important.  Apparently, Turner’s parents thought otherwise, what with his father still going around making absolutely crass statements.  If there’s anyone out there who goes around giving some excuse for his behavior as lame as ‘boys will be boys’, I have just this to say.  Boys who learn to respect consent are boys, Brook Allen Turner just had his credentials changed – He is a rapist !!

I loved what the survivor said at the end of her letter.  While I am terribly terrible sorry for the ordeal she went through, a part of me is proud of her for having stood up in a courtroom full of people who were trying and doing their level best to malign her, in a courtroom with her rapist in it, in a courtroom with a misogynistic judge presiding – she stood and she said what she had to say.  I have just one word for her. 


Towards the end of her letter, the survivor quotes Anne Lamott when she says
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” 

Yes, lighthouses shine.  They guide.  They show the path towards avoiding danger.  They ‘prevent’ disasters. 

For every parent all over the world – Be the lighthouse !

We need to be a lighthouse in standing up for right and wrong, even when it involves our own kids.  More importantly, we need to be a lighthouse in guiding our kids as they grow, teaching them the value and importance of consent and more importantly, to respect a ‘NO’.  We need to be a lighthouse in teaching them that a NO means a NO and not a MAYBE or a YES.

We, as parents, have a parental responsibility in believing and carrying forward on the premise that we need to actively do our bit in raising our children to be more responsible citizens and more importantly, more caring and empathetic human beings.  We, as a collective, as parents, need to make serious changes in the manner in which we talk to and convey to our children the importance of sex, consent, empathy and respect and how they are inextricably interlinked.

Be a lighthouse.  Stop the spread of rape culture.